ITS Recruiting Analyst
- Sep 29, 2001
TULSA, Okla. –– University of Tulsa linebacker Zaven Collins has had a postseason filled with numerous accolades and another award was added to his trophy case on Wednesday. The Lombardi Foundation of Houston named Collins the 2020 winner of the prestigious Lombardi Award winner.
The award is named in honor of legendary NFL coach Vince Lombardi and was created in 1970 by the Rotary Club of Houston shortly after the death of the famed coach.
The Lombardi Award is presented to the top FBS player, regardless of position, based on the Lombardi Award's criteria of "performance and leadership honed by character and resiliency." The award was formerly given to the best college football defensive lineman or linebacker up until 2017.
Collins, from Hominy, Oklahoma, is the third Oklahoman to win the award. University of Oklahoma defensive linemen Lee Roy Selmon (1975), from Eufaula, Okla., and Tony Casillas (1985), from Tulsa’s East Central High School, were previous winners from the state of Oklahoma.
In the 2020 season, Collins totaled 53 tackles, 11.5 TFLs for -49 yards, 4 sacks for -25 yards, 4 interceptions for 152 return yards, 2 TDs off INTs, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and one safety. Two of his interceptions were game-clinchers, including a pickoff against #19 SMU that ended any possible final scoring drive for the Mustangs and his pick-6 in overtime against Tulane that he took 96 yards for the game-winning score.
This year, Collins was joined on the list of four Lombardi Award finalists by Heisman Trophy winner and Alabama receiver Davonta Smith, Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and Coastal Carolina defensive end Tarron Jackson
Since 2017, the award-winners have been Stanford running back Bryce Love (2017), Oregon safety Ugochukwu Amadi (2018) and National Champion LSU quarterback Joe Burrow (2019).
In addition to the Lombardi Award, the 6’4” Collins claimed nearly every honor that he was under consideration for in 2020. He won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and the Chuck Bednarik Award, both given to the nation’s top defender, and was the runner-up for Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker.
Collins was a unanimous first-team All-American, earning the honor from the Associated Press, Football Writers Association of America (FWAA), American Football Coaches Association (AFCA), the Walter Camp Foundation and The Sporting News for consensus status. He also received first-team All-America accolades from USA Today, CBS Sports, Pro Football Focus, The Athletic and Phil Steele Magazine.
Collins was also unanimously chosen as the American Athletic Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year, becoming the first player in league history to earn unanimous player-of-the-year honors, while also earning first-team all-league merits.